A round trip to the Benelux Rally was the ideal way to celebrate Dunedin Chapter Scotland’s 25th anniversary
Furthermore, the host chapter in the Netherlands, Rock City, were also celebrating this momentous quarter-century landmark… talk about coincidence!
Three groups within the Dunedin posse mobilised, carving out their own particular routes to the rally – one group heading off on the Tuesday before, one on the Wednesday and a hardcore team of six departing on the Monday from Aberdeenshire, travelling down the west coast of the UK towards Eurotunnel, on to Ypres and then the rally.
Special mention at this point should go to the unfortunate couple who arrived at Newcastle Ferry Port just as the boat was leaving the terminal for Amsterdam, reducing the total crew to 78.
“This whole thing began back in 2016 when I was on H.O.G.® Officer Training (H.O.T.) in Brighton,” says Dunedin Chapter Assistant Director, Stewart Willox.
“I met Rolf de Wit from Rock City Chapter in Amersfoort, Holland, who was handing out beer mats. He mentioned that it would also be their 25th anniversary in 2019, and so the planning began.”
Given such unique circumstances, Stewart decided that the experience should be a justifiably memorable one and got together with chapter pals across Scotland to plan a custom-built journey.
“As we’d signed up to the Ride 365 programme, it also gave us a chance to combine the route with some serious points gathering,” says Stewart.
“Inspired by the H.O.G. Passport to Adventure I decided to make a paper version that would fit inside the leather original, listing all the dealerships we could visit on route to get our passport stamped.”
First stop Preston, with an overnight stay and a visit to Bowker Harley-Davidson®, then down to Guildford Harley-Davidson®, stopping at various other dealerships and the H-D® HQ in Oxford along the way.
“The great thing about the trip is that we took our time. It wasn’t so much ticking off the dealerships in quick succession, like the Iron Hog Challenge. We could relax, chat with the dealer principal, have a coffee and check out the merchandise, bikes etc,” says Stewart.
Leaving the UK, the group pressed on to Ypres, then the rally, where it was time to party. Of course, the Chapter weren’t going to let something as significant as 25 years go past unnoticed. Besides the obligatory kilts, the group had customised t-shirts in bright orange (respecting their hosts’ national colour) and pink ones for the ladies – all complete with the Chapter logo printed on them.
“With the original Woodstock festival being 50 years ago, the theme was ‘Hogstock’ and everybody bought into it. We even had ‘peace’ symbols printed on our t-shirts. At one point during the rally the Chapter came together for a mass march-in, complete with bagpipes (thanks to Adrian Vaughan of Black Mountains Chapter Wales), all kitted out in tartan with our Chapter flags flying. It was great fun! We had people coming up and asking for photos with us. And we partied!”
This being the H.O.G. community, the rally was also about making new friends and catching up with existing ones from near and far, with Dunedin members renewing old European acquaintances. “Through the many years of H.O.T. we’d met people from all over, particularly from the Dutch and Belgian chapters,” says Stewart.
“Together with all the UK chapters present, including Geordie, Thames Valley, Rolling Hills and Jersey Chapters, it made for a fantastic atmosphere. In fact, I was so impressed with the rally overall, I’ve noted some of the ideas to discuss as possibilities for future Thunder in the Glens events.”
However, the party didn’t stop there. After the rally, the six from Aberdeenshire set their sat-navs for Bruges in Belgium for a spot of sightseeing, then returned via Eurotunnel and up the UK east coast, once again stopping off at various H-D dealerships, before ticking off the last one in Edinburgh. All in all, they clocked up 2,145 miles over 10 days, not withstanding three days for the rally.
And it’s fair to say that the trip has made a lasting impression. The Chapter have now decided to have a permanent bi-annual adventure, with rumours of Milwaukee on the cards next.
“It’s really whetted the appetite for more. With so many events to build around, it’s just a case of what floats your boat,” explains Stewart.
“The great thing is that these types of trip also encourage people to sign up for H.O.G. membership as they don’t want to miss out on the experience.”
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